Judging: Does the system need a change?

     The fight’s over. I sit back in my chair with a sigh as I exchange looks with the other people in the room who I know are thinking the same exact thing I am. Even though everyone knows the fight was one sided we can’t help but think, will the judges get this one right? It’s been a common trend in boxing since the beginning of the sport. The early years were often blamed for corruption considering how easy it was to get away with it. In modern days, some still steer their minds to thoughts of that. However, perhaps there is another explanation. And that simple explanation is as easy as it gets. The system just doesn’t work. The old style of using three judges to judge a fight from the bottom of the ring just isn’t good enough anymore. Social Media has given the world a chance to complain, and now more than ever, they are being heard.

     Why isn’t it good enough? Because the fight game has changed. The styles of fighters have changed. They are more complicated, more strategized, and more complex. How many times do you see a round where two fighters feel each other out? Maybe even the first three rounds of the fight. The round is decided by one or two good landed punches. It happens often, and while the round was an even round where no fighter clearly won, the judging system has to give a 10-9 round. So who does it go too? What if the judge on the other end of the ring didn’t see those couple landed punches that would have won the fighter the round? He might give it to the guy that’s more popular, especially if the fighter is in his hometown. He might give it to the guy that pressured for the round even though he didn’t do anything. And if the guy that pressured the entire round, got hit with a few more clean punches, maybe he didn’t see it because he was at a bad angle, or the referee got in his way for that two seconds.

     The truth is, most fights start off like that. Most fights have those four rounds that there is no clear winner and it’s up to the judges to decide who won that round based on what they saw. Sometimes its six to seven rounds that cannot be clearly judged. The huge problem with that is those passive rounds end up being the deciding factor in a fight. The point is this:

     An NFL receiver traps a ball on the ground, and one ref says he caught it, and the other says it’s incomplete. Then they have to talk about it to see which one had the better view. Then sometimes they have to go to the replay booth. It’s the matter of two different angles of what they saw. So when three different judges with three different personalities, are watching the same fight from three different perspectives, what is the logical thing that is going to happen? They are going to see three totally different things. Especially in a close round. Ever see the movie Vantage Point? Ever watch a crime scene unfold where the witnesses tell the cops one hundred different things even though they all saw the same thing happen. This is what boxing’s judging system relies on. And guess what? It simply isn’t working anymore.    


     From the television, people at home have a better vision of the fight than the judges do. They can see every clean punch that lands, they can see the effect that they have on the fighter, the can see who is controlling the round. Only sometimes, in a brawl where two fighters are standing toe to toe, does it sometimes make people think, ‘who won that round?’ Or when a pure boxer gets in the ring with a brawler, and the boxer is landing cleaner shots but the brawler is throwing more punches and putting the pressure on. That can make people wonder too. Yes, sometimes it’s hard for anyone to judge a round but not often. These are the type of fights that will be hard to judge no matter what.

     I am going to use the Pacquiao-Bradley fight as an example. I remember that night like it was ten minutes ago. I nearly left the house when that fight had ended without listening to the scores because I was so confident that there was no possible way that Bradley had even come close to winning that fight. And to my surprise, I was wrong. The judges had scored it the other way in a fight that clearly was one sided in favor of Pacquiao. Duane Ford even went on record saying that he thought Bradley gave Pacquiao “A boxing lesson.” My response to that was a laugh, and me thinking that someone needed to give Ford a boxing lesson cause he had no idea what he was doing. Most people agreed. But what if I’m wrong? What if Duane Ford’s angle of the entire Pacquiao-Bradley fight was just a bad angle that made him think Bradley was winning round that he clearly wasn’t? What if CJ Ross was having the same issue? Maybe they didn’t see what everyone else saw.

     In that particular fight, if you rule out corruption, then the only possible explanation is their bad view of the fight. I’ve personally judged fights from sitting in the judge’s position and I’ll tell you what. You do see an entirely different fight. When a good punch lands sometimes you don’t even know it because the fighter that got hit has his back to you. You’re not sure if the punch hurt him, or if it even landed. There are angles where you don’t even know what’s going on for a few seconds because of the bad view you have. Judging a fight from where the judges sit is hard, and when the round is close, and you have to give it to one fighter, you go with what you saw. Which might not be what everyone else saw.

     I like to think better of modern day boxing and rule out corruption in most cases. If we can rule that out, then that leaves one thing. The system needs a change. I’m not sure I have the answer. Maybe there should be five judges that watch the fight from a room with a television in it instead of sitting at ringside. Maybe they should put them higher up so nothing gets in their way, sort of like the line judge we see in Tennis. What I do know is that it’s not getting better, it’s getting worse. 2012 was by far the worst year of judging that I have ever seen. 2013 isn’t starting any better, and with a bunch of huge fights coming up, no one is safe. If you’re not knocking someone out, you’re in danger of losing no matter how dominant of the fight you were. It’s not just the fans that get cheated, it’s the fighters too. The fighters that put weeks of hard work in just to win that fight. It’s sad that when they have spent so much time and dedication into trying to make their way to the top, that it takes one bad judging call to totally ruin everything. Something needs to be done.  

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